Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Two days a week I have mini-vacations – time when my children are being cared for by others. I fill that space with errands but often find that without the fuss of car seats, stopping to select and pocket random small rocks, discussions of “why I am eager to leave the store/bank/restaurant now that my task is completed and I understand you’re still investigating something I don’t begin to comprehend but can we please leave now?” I have time to sit for a few unexpected minutes. Once I filled that space with books or radio or writing lists, but now I sit, reaching for stillness, and appreciating that found time for the gift it is.
On vacation, the mere act of removing my watch slows me down, liberates me from self-imposed structures of hours and minutes, allowing me to savor a few extra moments of dark sleepy night-time storytelling with my son, or a mischievous demand for just one more bed-time song from my daughter. Not hemmed in by a morning alarm, I find myself more readily leaning into my husband and chatting into the night about upcoming schedules and not-so-distant plans, or talking more quietly and intimately about our dreams.
This week I had to take my watch in for repair, and I won’t see it again for four whole days. I feel naked and mildly panicky, worried that I’ll miss something. I don’t know why, since I have the cell phone, the computer, the car, and two clocks in the kitchen (one of which is on the oven and reads 350 when I bake, which confuses my husband to no end). I wonder if not having a watch on my wrist, physically tying me to the passage of time, will change my perception of the week. I know I put everyone to bed nearly an hour early tonight, but I can’t tell if that was due to the darkening sky or some less pleasant motive. I decided this evening, though, to believe that not having a watch means I am on vacation, and I will practice relaxing instead of fighting the rigors of a timely life. Perhaps this is a lesson for me: what a blessing to sometimes step outside of time, to find a place where there are no consequences for a late night, or a long morning walk, or an extra story or two.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Evening walks are a sensory experience. Without the definition of daylight, my relationship with my environment becomes much more tactile - previously duck-able branches and leaves part my hair as I forge through them; I cannot time my passage through the sprinkler; plants easily identified in the morning are instead appreciated solely for their scent, thrown across the grass by ungainly dog and leash. Streetlights throw japanese leaf prints on the sidewalk, dappled art disrupted but undisturbed by my passage. I find myself lost just yards from home, disoriented by unfamiliar landscaping. Fortunately Teddy guides me, lurching against her lead, home.
Friday, June 20, 2008
I don't often get time to myself. Granted, the younglings play by themselves a fair bit, but their games sparkle with brilliant ideas that need monitoring by less inventive folks. Otherwise we'd have a yard pocked by randomly spaced, ankle-twisting holes filled with stew (made of water, grass, mud, leaves, bugs, ashes, soap, and other things I dare not contemplate); leprechaun traps (bricks, rocks, pointy sticks and nails); and interspersed with found and then forgotten "treasures" such as broken tail lights, bits of jump rope, bottle caps tied on strings, and many, many small rocks. My children have deep white trash roots I can only attribute to my husband. It's all his fault. Really.
But this morning my inventors are asleep, and I have solitude. As I lay in bed contemplating my own wakefulness, I began listing all the things I could do while they slept: grocery store, respond to email, empty the dishwasher, make more lists. Then I got up, made myself a cup of tea, and sat on the porch to watch the sunrise reflected on the trees. First, the ends of certain branches shone orange and pink, then a shaft of light hit a blooming rose in the neighbor's yard, turning it from pink to burning magenta. It rained last night, and the air is cold on my toes. I savor these early morning goosebumps against the prediction of several ninety degree days in a row. My green tea is grassy and fresh on my tongue, and the robins are serenading me, in hopes that I will sprinkle the lawn and draw worms to the surface for them.
I breathe, and put off obligations for a few more minutes. Solitude is a gift. I will cherish it.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
She was right; there was one article on knitting, one on architecture, and a recipe for home-made chai. All suit me quite nicely, and it was a delightful respite to sit on a stool in the middle of the kitchen and read through random snippets I would otherwise never have found. It also got me thinking; gifts given are a mirror in which the recipient can better see how others perceive them.
Once I gave my mother a necklace depicting a dancing goddess. To me the goddess reflected my mother's indomitable spirit. I don't quite remember what I wrote in the accompanying note, but I do remember how surprised my mother was. She doesn't believe herself to be the person I see. Perhaps that is a family trait -- I think of myself as rather stodgy, but the articles I received reflected someone with wide interests, a zest for spice (literally), and a certain amount of creativity.
I like how you see me. Thank you.
Monday, May 12, 2008
My husband and I once drove across
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Months later I watched him sleep, stretched out on a lambskin on the living room floor, and I saw a conversation play out on his unconscious face. First a smile, then an intense look of concentration, and finally a silent laugh that spread to the ends of his fingers. I believe even now that he was talking to angels.
I think my sweet boy is a new soul. He's never been through the wringer. The responsibility of guiding him to adulthood, helping him find a road with maybe a few less bumps, is daunting. But having him in my life is such a blessing. As I once told my friends as we despaired, I have a daily reminder of all that is good in this world, no matter what darkness lurks at the edges of our reality. Thank you my sweet boy, for always showing me the light.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
After far too many years of pondering, I recently had two epiphanies, and I'm wondering which sounds right to you? And if I haven't gotten it, what's your answer?
A pear tastes like the first kiss with someone who makes your heart race. It starts soft, sweet, and tender, but before you pull away it catches, changes texture and becomes more assertive, perhaps messy, and requires two hands and a laugh as you look upward and stop for a moment to savor before you lean back in for more.
A pear tastes like dawn on a mountain top. You're not quite sure what to expect, and you look out and see glimpses of what's coming and you take a lightly perfumed breath inward. Then suddenly it's light and everywhere you turn there's something new and it's all lovely and you begin recognizing the shapes around you, and each one is delightful and familiar and yet somehow new.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Before & After
In my mind I have a long, long white wall, on which are hung many "Bad Mommy" plaques, one for each lapse in judgment or self-control or completely unavoidable incident which damages my children. I did not award myself the Bad Mommy yesterday, although one could argue that letting my girl play alone outside, unsupervised, was a bad choice.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
The mingle of people grows, each quietly intent on the individual business of waiting. Early in the year there are tentative glances, like at a high school dance, but the connections become stronger and after a few months there are hushed groupings: of neighbors, class parents, awkward strangers drawn into proximity by common experience. Still--through the light conversation that passes the time--eyes glance at windows or doors, expectant, hopeful.
And then the jarring shrillness of the bell, the old clapper style that beats relentlessly on a dome and seems to go on forever and as it echoes away we all sway backwards under the awesome wave of children that erupts from the school. The shrieking joy and pulsing energy seethes, rushing around parents who stand like stones at the edge of the sea, gulping the air as if we could somehow recover our own youth if we just breathe in their essence deeply enough.
Slowly we collect our children and their daily flotsam--papers, jackets, half-empty lunch boxes--and we trickle away, leaving the pavement unmarked except for the painted outlines of games we no longer know how to play.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
While I paced, however, I remembered a weekend morning not long ago. I had (as usual) overbooked myself, and woke up already desperately behind. So when my little one padded into my room at dawn and peered over the edge of the bed asking "Mama, you 'wake?", I got up, dressed, and the two of us snuck out while Sam and Dad slept on. I intended to make a quick run to the grocery store, then blaze through several other errands before breakfast. But when we hastily stepped off the porch, the sweetness of the new morning slowed each step until I stopped at the end of the walk, holding my child, and savored the first taste of spring. Rain had softened the grass and released a fresh earth smell that had hibernated until that morning under brown grass and patches of snow. The sun was gentle, still leaving traces of pink and orange along the eastern horizon, and some robins -- the first harbingers of spring -- were diligently trotting across the lawn, pausing only to glance our way before listening again to the wakening worms. And above it all came a glorious chorus of birdsong from every tree in the neighborhood. No church has ever felt so holy.
I didn't stop long that morning -- I had work to do -- but I did take the time to appreciate a moment of grace. And this morning, as my heart began beating faster and I lumbered along, I remembered to stop anticipating the next task and appointment and phone call, but instead to take a deep breath and live now, even if there is snow on the ground and I'm going to have to replant my beans.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
I spend most of my indoor time in my kitchen; I designed the kitchen myself and feel most at home there. The other night, I was sitting here feeling content and I looked up to see these back-lit bottles above the doorway.
When I was a little girl I used to walk with my grandmother and mother to a hundred year old dump not far from the family cabin. Walking through was like being in a three-dimensional history book; we'd pick up ancient, barely legible tins, random rusty bits and pieces, and glass turned iridescent or purple with age. Holding those objects, we'd be momentarily connected to the souls to whom these were everyday objects. We'd take intact bottles back and line the sills with them, a fragile reminder of our ancestors and our history.
I've carried this tradition into my home, and love looking up at the bottles; I find a certain satisfaction in seeing the lovely shapes and pondering what they were used for. More than anything, though, I feel more grounded when I look at them. When I feel lost and lonely I can look at an old bottle and know that I, too, am linked to the past, especially to my mother and grandmother who first showed me where to look.
I may not have changed my name to Baker when I got married, but this month I'm beginning to think I should have. For whatever reason -- the endless tedium of waiting through a dreary spring, my recent move to eat fewer carbohydrates, or a general need to create SOMEthing, I have been in a baking frenzy. Bread, cake, more bread, strata, sourdough starter (so it's not baking. It's still part of that yeasty process!) and yet more bread. And this week I lent my bread machine to someone else. It's all about getting my hands sticky lately. But I've had some lovely successes. Now if I could only find someone to eat it all.
I think we all deserve to have one beautiful thing in our lives at all times. For me it's flowers. You could say it's a waste of money, or that it's pointless, but it refeshes my soul, so it's worth it. Who cares if it means Mac & Cheese for dinner once a week? The kids certainly don't mind!
I also believe everyone should get at least one opportunity to walk into a room and get a standing ovation. But that's another theory for another time.